In the Greek world, athletes did not only train their bodies for military and other purposes, but also groomed and washed them before and after the training. The appropriate facilities and practices of washing are well known from literary sources, images, and archaeological remains, and include oil, strigils, and cold water. The known palaistrai/gymnasia in the eastern Mediterranean included in the 4th/3rd c BC only basins for washing with cold water or, rarely, pools for immersion and swimming in cold water. The first hot bathing form, notably rooms for collective sweating, were only added in the 2nd c BC. Bathing facilities were not only central to the concept of athletics and palaistrai/gymnasia, but are also important for archaeology. Since they can usually be safely identified, and since it is commonly assumed that all palaistrai/gymnasia provided facilities for care of the body, bathing facilities can serve to securely identify palaistrai and gymnasia.
This paper critically discusses the archaeological evidence of athletics and bathing in Hellenistic Sicily, examining the following questions: Can bathing facilities be recognized in complexes identified as palaistrai/gymnasia or can they even help to identify complexes not yet identified as palaistrai/gymnasia in literature? Were similar standards adopted as in the eastern Mediterranean, or did Sicilian palaistrai/gymnasia follow different traditions? What is the chronological, historical, and socio-cultural context of the examples, can significant differences be observed in different regions of Sicily or different periods? What ultimately do bathing facilities reveal about the concepts of training and bathing the body in Sicily?
Focus is on debated and difficult (“non-standard”) examples such as Syracuse (Area of Altar of Hieron), Neaiton (“Gymnasion”), Cava d’Ispica (“Gymnasion”), and Akrai (“Agora”), but safely identified examples (such as Agrigent, Solunt) are taken into account, serving as benchmarks.